Theodore Roosevelt Park

 

Laurel King, Contributor

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theodore roosevelt parkThe Theodore Roosevelt National Park is located in North Dakota. It was established in 1947, to honor the man who spent most of his life enjoying nature, and a great deal of his time as president trying to preserve it, for future generations.

In September 1883, Teddy arrived in North Dakota, for a bison hunting trip in the Badlands. It was then that he learned the thrill and infinite joy of being one with nature. Not one to hunt for pleasure, he was careful to only kill what he planned to use. A majority of the time, he spent hours observing the wildlife and recording details in his journals. By the conclusion of this 15-day trip, Teddy had purchased the Chimney Butte Ranch (aka the Maltese Cross Ranch). Only a few months later (in February 1884) both his first wife and his mother died on the same day. Heart broken, he returned to the Badlands to grieve and found solace in working with his cattle. Although the original Elkhorn Ranch is no longer standing, there are still foundation stones at the site.

Sometimes referred to as the 'Theodore Roosevelt Park', or the 'Theodore Roosevelt state park', it is comprised of three units on more than 70,000 acres. Although it's open 24 hours a day, every day of the year, some roads may be closed in winter due to inclement weather. With almost 100 miles of hiking trails, it is definitely geared towards those who enjoy the outdoors, as Teddy did.

The park offers a wide range of outdoor activities. For people who enjoy camping, there are numerous campsites for use: Cottonwood Campground (South Unit) and Juniper Campground (North Unit). There is also a Roundup Group Horse Camp for those small groups with horses. For backpackers, the Backcountry area is free to use, with a permit. However, there are no established campsites, and no approved drinking water areas; springs and wells in the area not safe for humans. Any winter camping requires advanced knowledge of winter survival, and a great deal of planning, especially considering the 'no open fires' rule. There are also opportunities for canoeing or kayaking, bicycle riding (on park roads only), and use of privately-owned horses.

Wildlife is abundant in Teddy's park, which is only fitting, since he was a zoology enthusiast from the early age of nine up until his death at 60. As expected, there are wild bison roaming the park, just as there would have been when Theodore first arrived (albeit far fewer of them). There are also mule deer, white-tail deer, elk, feral (wild) horses, prairie dogs, bighorn sheep, and almost 200 different species of birds. The animals are usually quite timid, avoiding humans, but bison may charge with no warning, if agitated. In the warmer months, the prairie rattlesnake may be encountered (April through September). Caution must be taken to avoid bites, as this type of snake is venomous and poisonous. Visitors to the park should never try to catch any of the wildlife, as it is protected while in the park. The park is operated by the National Park Service, a division of the Department of the Interior.